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Luther’s Mistake

Martin Luther, the famous German theologian who is credited with staring the Protestant Reformation, is also known for his horrible anti-semitism.  How did this capable, Bible believing, and Christ loving man become one who is also often accused, whether justifiably or not, with inspiring Hitler’s national socialists with their Jew-hating policies which led to the extermination of 6 million Jews in Europe?

Luther, as it is well known by historians, came to believe the absolute scriptural truth that a man is justified (made righteous with God) by faith alone in the all sufficient finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary for our sins through the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans.  “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17), is known as the spark of Protestantism (whether any “mainline” Protestantism can still be said to hold this is up for debate).

Early on after his break with Rome, Luther advocated for better treatment of the Jews, but later in life his writings show a vile hatred for them.  From Jewishencylopedia.com:

Hope of Conversion of Jews.

This book was undoubtedly written with the purpose of winning the Jews over to Christianity, as may be inferred from the fact that he sent it in the year of publication to a converted Jew named Bernhard (Geiger, “Jüd. Zeit.” vii. 24 et seq.). Luther was an enthusiastic believer in the Christianity of the apostle Paul, and therefore expected from the Reformed Church the fulfilment of Paul’s prophecy that all Israel shall be saved (Rom. xi. 26). “If this prophecy has not been fulfilled yet, it is because papacy has presented such a perverted Christianity that the Jews have been repulsed by it.” It is very probable that Luther expected the attestation of the truth of Christianity by a general conversion of the Jews, and, being disappointed, changed his attitude toward them. In one of his letters he speaks of a Polish Jew who had been hired to assassinate him, but this was most likely merely a vague rumor in which he did not himself believe (Geiger,” Jüd. Zeit.” vii. 26). In 1537, when Duke John Frederick of Saxony, who was a strong supporter of the Reformation, ordered the expulsion of the Jews from his country, Josel Rosheim, the advocate of the Alsatian Jews, armed with a letter of introduction from Luther’s friend Capito, asked Luther to intercede with the duke in behalf of his coreligionists. Luther, however, refused to act, saying that the Jews had not appreciated the kindness he had shown them in his book and that they were “doing things which are unbearable to Christians.” The somewhat obscure allusions of this letter seem to indicate that he was incensed at the Jews for their refusal to become Christians (ib. v. 78-80; Geiger, “Jüd. Zeit.” v. 28; “R. E. J.” xiii. 112).

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10196-luther-martin#anchor3

So what was his mistake that caused this change in his attitude, and the behavior of so many from Luther’s time forward against the scattered people of Israel?¹

The answer is quite simple if we understand the whole counsel of God on the matter.  If we ask the question, “Why won’t ‘the Jews’ believe?”, we are foolish to look anywhere but in the Scriptures, for if, as Protestantism stands on the all-sufficiency of the written Word of God in all matters of faith and practice, it stands to reason that God’s Word would address this too.  And it surely does.

As prophesied by Isaiah, and spoken by the apostle Paul in the last chapter of Acts, the nation (not the state as a governmental agency, but the nation as a people group, an ethnicity) as a whole has been given a spirit of blindness.  It has been said that the Jewish sorcerer Elymas was a pre-figure of this.  This was not a punishment for ignorance, but for stubborn refusal to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as indeed God’s Christ and His Elect Savior and the Redeemer of His people, Israel.

It would be easy for me to say at this point that Luther completely ignored the 11th chapter of Romans, but I would suppose this to be an over-simplification at best.  Luther translated Romans into German, and the doctrines that brought light to the dark ages came mostly from the pen of Christ’s Apostle Paul.

It seems as if Martin Luther, the hero of the Reformation, thought that he would be the one that would turn the Jews to Christ, and when this did not happen, his blood boiled with an unmatched written animosity.  This is when it is good to not not not NOT let our emotions make our decisions for us, nor to follow our hearts.

Even Paul, the chosen vessel of Christ, could not turn the Jews to Christ.  He loved his people, his kinsmen according to the flesh, and he constantly went to them throughout his ministry in Acts, even when the Lord Himself said, “Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem:  for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me” (Acts 22:18).

But if we really get a grasp of the God-inspired Apostle’s words in Romans 11:25, we should not follow Luther in his error:

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits;  that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”

I say this with a sober heart:

Paul could not convert “the Jews”.  Neither could Luther.  Neither will anyone until the curse of blindness is lifted, and they look upon Him Who they have pierced and mourn for Him (Zechariah 12:10).  Nationally, they are blinded and will stay that way “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

But individual Israelites certainly can be saved, in the same way that individual Gentiles are now saved.  God is not saving any nation today and calling them His people.  He is saving all who will but believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, believing the gospel message that Christ died for our sins, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1 – 4).  The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him, for WHOSOEVER (Jew or Gentile, i.e., anyone) shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

The Lord revealed to Paul throughout his ministry, the record of this revelation found as the entirety of the book of Acts, that national Israel at that time would not be converted.  But the Lord also revealed to Paul that any Israelite could indeed be saved, and that some would.

“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Not that he might convert the nation, but that some might be saved.  Throughout history, some have been saved.  To this day, part of Jewish identity is sadly identifying against Jesus Christ as God’s Christ and indeed the Son of God.  But any national Israelite may believe Christ’s gospel and the blindness will indeed be removed.  Not the blindness of the nation, but the blindness of that Israelite.  But only the supernatural intervention of Almighty God will remove the blindness of the nation, and that will be accomplished by Him in His time, through the time of Jacob’s trouble.  But He will now have all who will receive Him, but only on His terms, by faith of Jesus Christ!

Notes:


  1. Let no one blame their own wickedness on another.  We all have our own choices to make, and are responsible for them!

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Charles Miller View All

Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.

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